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Bliss's New England : identity, interdependence and isolation

Ellis, Sam (2011) Bliss's New England : identity, interdependence and isolation. PhD thesis, Prifysgol Bangor University.

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Abstract

Never before have the life and works of Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) been subjected to an extended critical examination. Such neglect has resulted in the persistent misrepresentation and oversimplification of his stylistic development: here, Bliss is reassessed through a tightly-wrought chronological narrative, interwoven with key elements of social and cultural history. Some musical commentary is offered, and this invariably centres on Bliss's abstract works, which shed the greatest light on his evolving style and intentions. Some biographical elements III this thesis are entirely original: for example, a lengthy survey of Bliss's military service during the First World War has been constructed from his unpublished war diaries and letters, all of which are kept with other historical source material at the Bliss Archive, Cambridge University Library. Most emphasis is then placed upon the interwar years, when Bliss was at his most creatively productive. A final biographical chapter demonstrates that, although Bliss's output was prodigious in the last thirty years of his life, he failed almost entirely in that time to engage with contemporary audiences. Throughout his life, Bliss remained detached from the predominant musical establishment and its associated pastoral trends, yet he attempted - with modest success - to enter the cultural mainstream during the interwar years. The received two-period classification of Bliss's music is therefore challenged and rejected, and a new three-period scheme is proposed in the final chapter, drawing upon evidence concerning Bliss's relationship with his audience: consequently, much is revealed of Bliss's changing intentions and motivations. Bliss experienced lengthy periods of cultural isolation, while his most enduring music was composed at times of greatest social integration. His relationship with national identity in the light of two world wars becomes crucial in this context, as does his changing interactions with urban and rural contexts: it is this interdependence, and others, which defined a British 'identity', if present at all, during the twentieth century.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: Degree Thesis
Departments: Degree Thesis
College of Arts and Humanities > School of Music
Date Deposited: 14 May 2015 05:21
Last Modified: 13 May 2016 15:19
URI: http://e.bangor.ac.uk/id/eprint/4533
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